The Hawthorn Tree

The chains attached to the hands and feet of the prisoners shake and rattle as they drag their heavy feet down the bleak gray hallway. Their faces have grown long and the spots under their eyes darken and wrinkle with each passing day becoming permanently etched within their sagging skin. Hope is a long lost memory here, buried deep beneath the grimaces of pale lips and shattered hearts. One by one they’re dropped off in their cement homes; cold, dark, cells large enough to contain a twin bed and a cracking toilet and fading souvenirs of a time when life was brighter and freedom readily available. However the people became captives to free will and self-dependency and the walls grew around them, block by block until they were trapped here, together but alone, in this prison of false independence and twisted truth. They sit bound by lies, secrets, and captured truth and the walls around get higher and they draw closer together until every prisoner is left suffocating alone in their cells.

The branch of a hawthorn tree grows through bars of a small window, high in the corner of a cell where a prisoner, trapped by the words of society and the pain of remembrance, withers under the growing tensions of the war that violently consumes his mind and daily threatens his being. The scars on his body have grown deeper as the years have passed and as wounds have superficially healed and been redrawn by hate, fear, and desperation. And as every day passes, he withdraws until he’s bound in the prison of his body and mind, not just the gray rock walls around him.

But in the corner, the branch of the hawthorn tree continues to grow through the window. As the seasons pass the branch reaches into the cell bending and turning as it hits the corners, wrapping its way around the room. And as spring comes every year, the Hawthorn tree litters the ground of the cell with flowers, white as snow. And as the years pass, the tree begins to grow against the side of the prison leaning against the wall of the cell, its weight forcing the cement to crack and splinter. But the prisoner sits in the corner on his bed, staring lifelessly at his open hands, unaware of the changes around him.

Spring comes again, and the Hawthorn tree buds and blossoms filling the cell with a burst of pure white. A soft wind wanders by one day and shakes the blossoms of the tree causing petals to fall in every direction, causing one to float down and land in the open hands of the prisoner, startling him, waking him, reminding him.

His breath halts, his eyes widen, and his hands close over the petal, securing it in his grasp. After years of looking down, he raises his stiff neck to show his eyes the beauty of the hawthorn tree and his heart gasps in awe. Branches of the tree surround his room, covering the ceiling with bright white blossoms. The sun is shining in through the window and the ever-growing cracks the hawthorn tree created on the side of the building. The prisoner eases himself off the bed, stretching his legs, and slowly walks over to the cracked wall, pushing at the weakened cement, causing tiny pieces to fall away and enlarge his door to the outside. He pushes harder, his entire body weight focusing upon one spot that could lead him to freedom, and as it begins to crumble, he gets impatient and backs away from the wall. From the other side of the cell, he runs and, turning his shoulder into it, hits the wall. Chunks of cement hit the ground. Again he runs and thrusts his shoulder into the wall and again and again and again. With each hit the wall crumbles more and more, shattering from the weight of the hawthorn tree and the hope of man, until a gap, large enough for him to climb through has been formed.

With hesitant hands the man drops the hawthorn petal and grabs at the sides of the hole, hoisting himself into the gap. With too much force he brings his body up, causing him to lose his balance and fall out onto the other side of the hole into a field. Awestruck, he looks to his left and finds himself lying amidst daffodils and remembering an old story, he picks one up and carries it off as he waves goodbye to the hawthorn tree, walking into life.

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